SSS, ANYONE? by Kaili Reynolds
As a childbirth educator and birth doula, I have learned through research and experience that when children witness their parents valuing solitude, creativity, and physical play, they will value it themselves. Often when I speak of this in the classroom, expecting parents can't conceive of a life where their play helps them be kinder and a more patient parent(s). How could it be that leaving my child to pursue my fun selfishly is benefiting them? When they come home with fresh eyes and open hearts for their kid's playful curiosities, the truth is apparent. It's an experience of reciprocity.
For my play, I enjoy surfing the most. When I play without my kids, I can fully shed my role as a mother/teacher and be immersed in the presence of the experience. I then instinctively want my kids to feel the joy I feel. The challenge in getting this solitude for yourself is finding childcare for your kids while you're gone. This is where the power of community becomes imperative. Reaching out to and relying on your community opens up your life to fun and shared experience, opening your mind and heart to have space for your child's learning curves.
During the Covid-19 Pandemic and the subsequent quarantine restrictions, I was stripped of my access to fun. Surfing was BANNED -Okay, only for a week, but that's a lifetime when you are suddenly a homeschool mother to three kids in three different grades. I felt lost; however, I wasn't alone. Many had to put surfing on hold. Once the ban from surfing was lifted, I received a group text from a mama-friend, Katie Loggins. "SSS, anyone?" We all responded similarly- "Huh? SSS?" "Sanity Saving Surf" is what Loggins typed back. AND WE WERE ALL IN!
Katie Loggins has a track record of creating a community around moments of struggle. She first worked with other surfing women in her neighborhood when they all became parents. Suddenly stripped of their freedom to surf around the swells and tides, they built a system to help each other eek out surfs and beach hangs together. This idea turned into a film documented by Liz Pepin Silva that spread the idea worldwide and led to many surfing mom groups beyond Katie's neighborhood. As a nurse during the Covid-19 pandemic, Loggins and the other nurses in her unit were overtired and overstressed. Not wanting her teammates to feel underappreciated, she created ProudRN. The company creates recognition for essential workers with car decals, hats, and, most popularly, hooded sweatshirts that say "Nurses Are Swell." Inspired by the way Katie refuses to sacrifice joy by rallying the community, I hope that someone reading this interview with Katie is encouraged to keep their fun by rallying your community to help you get what's most needed, joy.
When did you start surfing?
I don't consider myself as having "started" surfing until I would consistently go surfing. However, the first time I paddled out, I was in high school. I had a beat-up water-logged old Doyal that a friend lent me and would strap that to my car and drive around feeling so proud. I knew that I was breaking stereotypes by being a woman in the water. Yet still, I drove around with that on my car much more than I got it in the water. It wasn't until after college that I truly got consistent with surfing. So, that's about 20 years ago.
What drew you to surfing?
Having been born and raised in Santa Cruz County, I spent my entire childhood in the water. As a kid, I did Jr Guards and remember loving the paddling portion. As a teen, my boyfriend would surf, and I would gaze with admiration (from the beach) at its beauty. But it wasn't until later that I realized that I didn't have to sit on the beach. I could do it too.
What other outdoor activities have you loved besides surfing?
Although surfing is my true athletic passion, I have always been an athlete. I played soccer, basketball, was a high-jumper, would run, and just truly always have loved being outside.
When did you become a nurse?
When did you become a parent?
How was the transition of becoming a mother for you?
To say it was challenging is to minimize the transition completely. The idea of becoming a parent was dreamy and seemed a glorious thing to do. I knew that I would be that mom that would travel the world surfing and doing anything and everything with my children, and nothing would stop me. They would never watch screens, they would eat only organic food, and everything would be blissful. I had never truly understood or even thought about the real impact having children has on your life before kids. So it hit me very hard when I realized that by having a child underfoot, I did not have the freedom of spontaneity to simply surf when I wanted to surf or travel when I wanted to travel. When daddy is at work, it is me, just me. So surfing became almost obsolete during the transition.
What is it like juggling being a professional, a mother & a surfer?
Sometimes the juggle feels impossible. The profession and mother aspects come first. They are the inflexible parts. Surfing is the only area to compromise. And it is often sacrificed. I have had to learn that surfing is so deeply important for my physical and psychological health that I now need to schedule it on the calendar and prioritize it as well. Without it, I am less successful as a parent and as a nurse.
A lot of women I have spoken to gave up surfing when they became mothers. How did you make it work for you as a new mom?
Honestly, I didn't make it work. I had a handful of friends who had all had children around the same time. One day, we talked about how difficult it was that we couldn't get our surf time in. Then it just hit us. If we do a mama surf swap, then we could all get our fix. We collectively began arranging mama surf swap dates, and it was as if our worlds opened up again.
Explain why you felt the need for a film to be made about your surf swaps?
Being a new mom is challenging, to say the least. But once we started surf swapping, I recognized how special our dynamic was, our friendships, our time to share mama stories, our time to rejuvenate with a surf. Our community rallied around us in the water, saying "go mamas," and it was as though a light was around us. I could feel that energy and knew how unique and special it was. Every time we were together I kept thinking, "We should get this on film," but was literally thinking about grabbing an iPhone to do it. I just never did. I felt such a pull to filming us that I reached out to an old friend named Elizabeth Pepin Silva one day. I knew she had filmed some notable surf films and asked her how I might get started if I ever wanted to get us on film. I expected to get an email with a to-do list of items that I would never actually do. Instead, to my surprise, two days later she said: "I want to make your film!". The rest is history.
Do you think the film was successful given your goals?
I hoped that people might connect with our story. Whether surfers, artists, or something in between, the challenge of not being able to recharge by immersing yourself in your passion when being pregnant or having a baby is real. There is a sense of loneliness and a feeling like you can not or are unable to continue doing what you love. Yet, if you come together as a community, ask for help when you need it and support others, you can keep going. When at the International Surf Film Festival in Anglet France (the largest European surf film festival), I was overwhelmed with emotion when women would walk up to us and thank us after watching our film. They shared that they never knew it was possible to continue surfing while pregnant. And that they just naturally thought that becoming a mother meant you had to sacrifice surfing and the things you loved. Our film helped them see pregnancy and motherhood differently. When we won their People's Choice Award, I knew that our film had affected others and that we had truly shared our message.
What surprised you about the response to the film?
That our simple story impacted so many people. When Surfer Magazine reached out to me to run a story on us, I knew that we affected fellow surfers and were impacting that entire surf culture. Since our film came out, I have seen many surfing mothers groups start popping up around the world and am impressed that women are willing to take the leap to change their mindset on surfing and motherhood.
How are surf swaps going now?
Surf Swapping is such a special and wonderful tool to use. When the children were babies and toddlers, we utilized it much more. As they became school age, the dynamic has shifted. They are involved in their own activities, and thus, schedules don't line up quite as well. But swapping will always be a part of our friendship. With Covid, of course, all swapping halted.
You are a Covid nurse. I imagine that upended things for you as both a mother and a human. What has changed for you in terms of work, parenting, and as someone who protects their play?
For the first time in my nursing career, I have had difficulty compartmentalizing my work from parenting and my play. It's all entwined. The pressure on the world, on a nurse, and the fear around the transmission of Covid-19 makes it impossible not to think about family while at work. The people who are hospitalized with Covid-19 tend to be extremely sick and crash very fast. They are terrified, and the families are as well. I am their support person. I am the person they cry to and look at when helpless with fear when they can't breathe. It is impossible not to feel for them and yet fear that that could happen to myself or my family members. Surfing is my one true outlet for clearing my heart and my mind and recharging. I see coworkers out in the water, and I know it is their medicine as well. It is that much more important to me these days. I was spending time with my family and soaking up the joyful moments. I am so grateful for our health, and all of that keeps me going.
You created a community for yourself as a new mom to protect your play. Recently, you've been rallying nurses into a community of pride through your company, the Proud Nurses Coalition. Explain the importance of spreading pride within that community.
Nurses work incredibly hard to care for others. It is an extremely emotional and physical job. We are exhausted, and the system we work for does little to lift us up. I believe that even the littlest reminders of our greatness can significantly impact our emotional and mental state. So, with Proud Nurses Coalition (Proud RNs), I decided to create those reminders and spread them nationwide. With official RN car decals, hats, sweatshirts, and other products, when just driving or walking through our communities and seeing these little symbols of pride, our sense of self-worth and connection to others increases.
As a friend, I would definitely characterize you as an idea girl -we bonded because you included me in a group text that was first called Sanity Saver Surfs, where we made sure each other played during quarantine, rallying each other to get ourselves into the water somehow. Around the same time, our friendship blossomed even more through your idea to provide ear-saving scrub caps to local covid nurses -you needed them & I could sew them. You got fabric donations, I got button donations & we found other sewists to help us knock them out… which is all to say, you have an idea, and you run with it & you find people to rally with you, all the while seemingly uninhibited by doubt. As a role model to future idea girls… what helps you believe in your ideas? How do you feel so motivated to put your ideas into action no matter how hard things seem to be?
I love this question. I am totally an "idea girl!" Some things have happened in my life that taught me from an early age that life is short. As a result, I learned early to choose to live a big life. The most amazing thing was to come out of facing my fears and not allowing them to control me. I was a skydiver, a traveler, an international surf instructor. I have had big love and big loss. But if I allowed fear or listened to my irrational mind telling me that I would not succeed, I would never have had any of it. My head does kick in, so does my self-doubt. I'm completely human. So one way I approach that is to use mantras.
When I first started surfing, I felt fear as I didn't have a clue what I was doing, and the ocean is so powerful. So I had a mantra, "I won't know unless I go." Everything in me wanted to get better at surfing. My nerves were screaming. To allow me to turn and paddle for a wave, I had to use that mantra. And then, when I would wipe out, I would force myself to come up laughing instead of being terrified. I was able to get through the fear, turn around, paddle back out and try again because of this little trick. Now, I apply it to most things in life. The best things in life have come by following my power and not my fear.
What ideas or advice do you have for parents who find themselves isolated and don't know where to start in building their parenting community that encourages solitude and play as well as shared experiences?
Talk. Share feelings. Vocalize. Ask for help. Do you have friends in the same positions as you? Reach out to them, meet up. If you don't have friends in the same position, there are resources out there such as your church, a parenting Facebook group, a neighborhood NextDoor group, a surf moms group. Take a minute to honor your needs. And if it feels too overwhelming, ask your partner or friend to help you figure it out. People want to help. The hardest part is asking.
Kaili Reynolds is a regular contributor to withitgirl.
Proud Nurses Coalition Instagram
Katie Loggins Instagram
Surf Mamas Instagram
Paul Ferraris: Instagram
Surf Mama Watch the Film on SurfNetwork
Edin Markulin Instagram
Additional Photo Information
Photo 7: Brian Nunes & Katie Loggins at Pleasure Point right after the surfing ban was lifted. People in Santa Cruz who wanted to say thank you to the health care workers wore white shirts in the surf to encourage other surfers to yield to nurses, doctors. Photo by Beau Barcus
Photo 8: Katie Loggins & co-worker on the front lines at Dominican Hospital Covid Unit, Santa Cruz CA. 2021. These are her ProudRN sweaters.
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